The Olympic Torch Relay is underway in Kumamoto! You can watch every moment of the flame's historic journey to the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games on 23 July 2021 via the dedicated Tokyo 2020 live stream, as well as following the highlights as they happen via our blog, below.
6 May, 17:10 (JST): Inspired by Japan's 'father of the marathon'
KITAGAWA Aren is proud that he currently attends the same high school as KANAKURI Shizo, one of Japan’s earliest long distance running pioneers.
Nicknamed Japan's 'father of the marathon', Kanakuri has the legendary story of “disappearing” during the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Marathon event, before returning to Sweden in 1967, finishing the marathon in a time of 54 years, 8 months and 6 days.
Inspired by Kanakuri, Kitagawa decided to join his school's athletics club and whenever he has felt tired during his training in the mountains, he thinks of Kanakuri.
Later today, the Flame would visit the former residence of Kanakuri.
6 May, 16:30 (JST): Picture time!
Sunshine, colourful flags, kongfu-style “torch kiss”, what else did we miss in today’s Torch Relay? Let’s check the pictures and find out!
6 May, 14:20 (JST): A long awaited dream came true
UCHIDA Masatomo has waited nearly 57 years to become a torchbearer.
Back during Tokyo 1964, he missed the chance because his hometown Kikuchi City was not on the Torch Relay route but fortunately, he got the chance to watch the Games as a spectator.
For the past 36 years, from June to September every year, Uchida volunteered to teach children aged 4-12 to swim at the local pool. It’s his wish that some of the children would dream of being an Olympian.
6 May, 13:40 (JST): Former taekwondo Olympian starts relay in Aso
HIGUCHI Kiyoteru, a former taekwondo athlete who competed in Sydney 2000 at just 19-years-old, started the relay in Aso, a city rich in natural beauty.
When Higuchi started running, the city loudspeaker played a beautiful melody to cheer for him.
Being a former athlete and a coach, I would like to pass on the impressiveness and charm of the Olympic Games to the young generation.
6 May, 12:10 (JST): The never-ending sports dream
Minamiaso is where NAKAO Arisa’s sports dreams begun.
Since starting triple jump in primary school, she has many trophies under her belt, including 10 straight wins at Kumamoto Prefecture-level sport meetings and a gold medal from 2015 Japan Athletics Championships.
Despite an accident during training session in 2016 which left her paralysed from the waist down, it was Minamiaso, her beloved hometown, that gave her the courage to move on. She is now striving to be excel as a Para athletics athlete.
And her next goal? Paris 2024 Paralympic Games!
6 May, 11:30 (JST): “Go go go, teacher!”
It’s not a new thing to see people cheering for the torchbearers on the side of the road, but TOKUNAGA Tomoka definitely had the cutest cheer team — a group of children from the nursery she works at.
The group held a banner that read “Ganbare, sensei” (“Go go go, teacher”) and waved small flags.
While Tokunaga had to give up her athletics dream due to work, hopefully while carrying the flame today and seeing the smiles of the children she teaches everyday, it was a rewarding experience.
When TOKUNAGA Tomoka started her relay in Minamiaso, a group of children from the nursery she works at cheered for her.
6 May, 09:40 (JST): In memory of the beloved younger brother
When torchbearer WATANABE Kouyou ran through Mashiki Town, he must be filled with emotion.
Five years ago, when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the town, he was still a middle school student. Over 6,000 houses in the town were destroyed and 45 people lost their lives. Fortunately, Watanabe’s house remained untouched and his family took care of people who sheltered in their home.
Watanabe’s younger brother, who had been in coma for a decade, was in a care centre when the earthquake happened. Although the centre was partially damaged, the staffs ensured that the patients were well protected.
Today when Watanabe ran with the torch, he hoped his younger brother, who passed away three years ago, could witness the moment from the heaven.
As a torchbearer, I hope I can send courage to people who, like me, have lost their loved ones, so that they can move forward.
6 May, 09:10 (JST): Welcome to Mashiki Town!
Welcome to the second day of the Olympic Torch Relay in Kumamoto! The flame begins its journey in Mashiki Town, a destination that was hit hard by the 2016 earthquake in the region but is now on its way to recovery. From there, it visits Minamiaso Village, Aso City, Kikuchi City, Yamaga City, Nagomi Town and Tamana City, before ending the day in Kumamoto City.
Kumamoto City is most famous for Kumamoto Castle, a much-loved building that was built in 1607. The castle is surrounded by hundreds of cherry trees, making it a favourite for people on the hunt for cherry blossoms during the early months of spring.
You can watch all of the day's action unfold live right here on Tokyo 2020.
5 May, 15:20 (JST): First blind sailor to cross Pacific Ocean
IWAMOTO Mitsuhiro became 'the happiest person in the planet' when he finally fulfilled his dream of crossing the Pacific Ocean in 2019. The then 52-year old blind sailor made the 14,000km voyage from San Diego, California in the United States where he was residing and travelled to Fukushima Prefecture accompanied by sighted navigator Douglas Smith. It was Iwamoto's second attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean non-stop. Back in 2013, his boat sank after hitting a whale.
Two years after that 2019 historic moment, the esteemed blind sailor is back in his native Kumamoto Prefecture carrying the flame in Amakusa City to inspire people to go after their dreams and never give up.
And one to receive him back in the hometown with open arms, is Kumamon, the mascot bear of Kumamoto Prefecture, who gave a nod to Imawoto's achievements in sailing.
5 May, 14:30 (JST): A music teacher carries flame by boat
Even if it was a little bit windy today in the seaside, the Olympic flame keeps burning bright even when transported by boat from Minamata to Amakura City.
It must have something to do with the warmth of torchbearer TSURUGI Koudou's presence who is a music teacher and a keeper of the Kyushu Jiuta Shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese music in Kumamoto. Tsurugi's life work is to pass on this Kumamoto music tradition, which is the pride of his hometown.
As Tsurugi carries the torch today, he passes by the uninhabited island of Koijishima which is also known as 'the path of love island' - coined as part of a local lore about two lovers - one of a warrior and his wife who tragically dies before his return.
TSURUGI Koudou, a teacher of traditional Japanese music in Kumamoto, transports the flame by boat from Minamata City to Amakusa City.
5 May, 14:00 (JST): A former gymnast highlights the importance of exercise
HASENO Mayo has been a gymnast since she was 10-years-of age and boasts of winning local competitions around Kumamoto Prefecture. Now retired, she didn't stray far from her roots and continues to spread the joy of exercise to the people of Kumamoto by working in a fitness facility run by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
She intends to help make Kumamoto more energetic through her work to encourage both the young and older locals to stay active.
While Haseno continues to promote healthy lifestyles in Kumamoto, did you know that gymnastics will once again feature in Tokyo 2020 in three categories namely Artistic gymnastics, Rhythmic gymnastics and Trampoline gymnastics
5 May, 12:00 (JST): A visit to the Aoi Aso Shrine
The flame has once again passed in one of Japan's national shrines. This time it's Aoi Aso Shrine, a Shinto shrine whose five pavilions are named as National Treasures of Japan. Constructed between 1609 and 1613 by lord Nagatsune Sagara, it has been regarded as a protector of the land in that region and is still considered an important landmark in Hitoyoshi City.
Today it had a special importance as our last torchbearer, boxer FUKAHARA Tatsuya carried the flame to conclude the relay in his hometown Hitoyoshi.
5 May, 11:00 (JST): Safeguarding Japanese tea heritage
Green tea plantations abound in Kumamoto and it places no. 8 in tea production out of the 47 Prefectures in Japan.
That's why for our next torchbearer KAWAKAMI Seiichi, a Kumamoto tea farmer, it's important to safeguard his hometown's green tea heritage for generations to come. A farmer of more than 30 years experience, he now works with his son as his successor in the family business.
He hopes that by running today, young people in Japan will continue to appreciate green tea and help keep the tea culture alive whilst supporting local farmers like him and their families.
5 May, 10:40 (JST): Representing volunteers
MATSUNAGA Hidenori is a consummate volunteer who has not only given back to his community but also to global causes. From volunteering in reconstruction efforts during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, teaching English to foreigners in Kumamoto Prefecture to supporting HIV/Aids patients in Vancouver, Canada, Matsunaga's mission is to make a mark in people's lives whilst having an eye-to-eye dialogue with them.
Matsunaga is proud to be a global volunteer coming from Kumamoto and as he runs here today with the flame, he hopes to become a role model and enlighten people to take their first step in volunteering for causes they care about.
5 May, 10:15 (JST): Special Olympics coach kicks off relay in Kumamoto
It's drizzling this morning in Hitoyoshi City in Kumamoto Prefecture but our first torchbearer NAKAGAMI Hiroshi was all smiles as he greeted the small crowd who lined up to see him run as the first torchbearer of the day.
Nakagami has participated in various tournaments on home soil and abroad including the Los Angeles World Summer Games (2015) as a Special Olympics coach. To this day he continues to provide training and opportunities for people with intellectual impairment to help them take part in sports in his hometown. As he carries the flame today, he dreams of eliminating negative stereotypes and prejudice in society regarding people with intellectual disabilities.
I will run with a single light for the community in my heart.
As the first torchbearer in Hitoyoshi City in Kumamoto Prefecture, Special Olympics coach NAKAGAMI Hiroshi carries the flame to break stereotypes against people with intellectual impairment
5 May, 10:00 (JST): Meet the former Miss Kumamoto promoting the charms of the prefecture
In 2016, the Kumamoto region suffered two devastating earthquakes with 273 people losing their lives. As an evacuee at the time, NOGUCHI Mami saw the harm caused to the local area. It made her determined to promote the prefecture during its rebuilding efforts, leading to her taking on the role of Kumamoto’s representative for Miss Universe Japan 2017.
You can read more about Noguchi's life, aspirations and reasons for becoming a torchbearer here.
5 May, 09:55 (JST): Welcome to Hitoyoshi City!
Welcome to the first day of the Olympic Torch Relay in Kumamoto! The flame will begin its journey in Hitoyoshi City, home of lime stone caves that are said to be over 300 million years old, the thatched Aoi Aso-jinja shrine and 800-year-old castle ruins. From there, it will make its way to Minamata City, Amakusa City and Uto City, before ending the day in Yatsushiro City, where you can find Yatsushiro Castle, a beautiful construction that will celebrate its 400th birthday in 2022.
You can watch all of the day's action unfold live right here on Tokyo 2020.